What Is Hindu Drama?

by Alyson Paige

Drama in India is rooted in the older Hindu drama, which entertained ancient peoples on the Asian subcontinent. Hindu drama, also called Sanskrit drama, incorporated spiritual concepts and based on Hindu sacred texts, including but not limited to, the oldest known sacred texts, the Vedas. Male acting troupes travelled India, entertaining audiences in antiquity. Hindu drama played and still plays a role in Hindu religious festivals, dramatizing to musical scores such themes as the recreation of the deities. Hindu drama offers romantic visions and sweeping vistas upon which great battles are fought.

The Vedic Connection

The Vedas, which are comprised of the Rig-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Yajur-Veda and the Atharva-Veda provided content for ancient Hindu drama. According to the Oriental Theatre website, audiences 5,000 years ago watched and participated in dialogue and hymns from the Rig-Veda and Sama-Veda, and responded emotionally to mime and incantations from the Yajur-Veda and Atharva-Veda.

Hindu Drama Sensibility

Writers used the epic Mahabharata and the Ramayana as sources of subject matter with characters like Lord Krishna, his adoring and beautiful Gopis, and Lord Shiva, the Creator-Destroyer god. While the Vedic priests tried to hold the reins on more salacious interpretations of sacred texts, audiences still enjoyed what the Theatre History website calls "open-air spectacles," such as Govinda's couragoues adventures.

Cultural Connection

Hindu dramatists originally wrote Hindu dramas in Sanskrit and later wrote them in Prakrit. When audiences began to gossip in the streets in the sacred Sanskrit language they heard in Hindu drama, the priestly Brahmin caste were offended, Lower caste, Prakrits' street talk found its way into Hindu drama, changing its former erudite tone, according to the website, India Net Zone.

Story Lines

Hindu drama themes included characters like the Vedic god, Indra surrounded by the storm gods, and Agni the fire god riding the lightning. As the millennia passed, audiences listened in on Krishna's and the warrior, Arjuna's dialogue from the Bhagavad Gita as Arjuna contemplated his duty and the nature of the divine.

About the Author

Worked for the Doobie Brothers & Leon Russell. Concert promoter, theologian, Reverend, actor at heart, writer, by trade, teacher by default.

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